The Top Five: Breaking down the Talladega race

Five thoughts after Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway…

1. At long last, Logano has reason to squint again

Joey Logano was strangely irrelevant last year, falling off the map after his encumbered Richmond win. It was hard to understand what happened to that team, which had previously looked like it would be perennial contenders and perhaps even become the next 48 team (I actually thought that for awhile).

But those problems seem mostly fixed now. Logano came into Talladega second in the point standings and left in the same position, except now with a win to lock him into the playoffs.

The Team Penske driver is far from a fan favorite — he gets more boos than cheers, to be sure — but a winning Logano is good for the sport. He seems to ruffle other drivers’ feathers enough to cause some bad blood (the Kyle Busch fight and Matt Kenseth incident at Martinsville, to name a couple) while pissing off fans in the process. And fans need to be pissed off at times, because it’s better than being apathetic.

Logano is a hard-charging, no apologies driver on the track and a surprisingly warm, friendly personality off it. NASCAR needs him to be contending every week, because he’s a veteran by experience and a young gun by age who can be appealing to both audiences.

He’s back now. And by the way, here’s a guess: Logano will go the rest of his career without a winless streak as long as the 36-race drought he just experienced.

2. Ford goodness sake

Ford is seemingly unstoppable at Talladega. Not only did the manufacturer win its six straight race there, but it had six of the top seven finishers on Sunday.

No one was going to be able to touch the front-running Fords without getting help from other Fords. That sounds weird, but just look at Chevrolet’s Chase Elliott: He was third, but had nothing for the top two unless other Fords pushed him into the mix.

Clearly, Fords are still the ones to beat on restrictor-plate tracks. After all, they’ve now won nine of the last 10 plate races and had a driver (Ryan Blaney) who dominated the other race (the Daytona 500 in February).

That dominance is going to last until at least the end of this year, when the other manufacturers can only hope the new Mustang somehow doesn’t race as well on plate tracks in 2019 as the Fusion does right now.

On the topic of new cars, Sunday was another blow for Chevrolet. After winning 13 straight manufacturer titles from 2003-15, the new Camaro gave Chevy teams so much hope coming into this season.

But now Chevrolet hasn’t won a race since the Daytona 500. Since then, it’s been five wins by Ford and four by Toyota. Talladega would have been a much-needed morale boost for Chevy that ultimately didn’t happen.

3. Shoulda woulda coulda

Speaking of missed opportunities, there’s still only been one winner (Austin Dillon) who is outside the top 16 in points this season.

Every other race winner is at least ninth, and four of this season’s six race winners make up the top four in the standings.

So Talladega was a giant missed chance for an underdog driver to steal a playoff bid. Yeah, there are still the two road courses and Daytona — but seeing Talladega won by a driver who is second in the standings had to be a blow for drivers like Bubba Wallace and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who entered the day thinking they could pull off a win.

On the other hand, it potentially opens another spot available to make the playoffs on points, setting up the next 16 races to be one of the fiercer points battles the midfield has seen in recent years.

4. This message brought to you by frustration

Sunday’s race had the fewest lead changes for a Talladega race since 1998, and FOX missed three of the green-flag lead changes while at commercial. It also missed the first Big One.

The amount of commercials was infuriating and, frankly, insulting to the viewers. FOX continues to disrespect the remaining few NASCAR fans who have stuck around to watch the races, apparently with no intention of making any changes to make the broadcasts more tolerable.

I’m not talking about the talent or the production, either. FOX wants to keep the Grid Walk and Boogity Boogity and the Vortex Theory? Fine, whatever.

The immense frustration here lies with the commercials: SHOW. US. THE. RACE!

Sunday’s broadcast reminded me of a timeshare presentation. They lure you to watch Talladega with promises of excitement and action, then waste your time trying to get you to do something you don’t want — in this case, eating artery-clogging KFC and buying whatever drug helps you recover from your KFC-induced heart attack.

FOX not only seems to air as many commercials as ever, but has “innovated” by inserting all sorts of DVR-proof ads right into the broadcast. But this is Emmy-worthy sports coverage, so what do I know?

Along those lines, it doesn’t matter to FOX what I think and it definitely doesn’t matter what you think. FOX execs have instructed its team to get whatever money it can, and if that allows viewers to see part of the race, then lucky us.

NASCAR has many problems. The relentless amount of commercials being shoved down viewers’ throats is among the most pressing, but is also sadly among the least likely to change.

5. Back to real racing

Up next, it’s the May slate of events: Dover, Kansas and the two Charlotte races. The races will be won by (in no particular order): Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and another Gibbs or Stewart-Haas car.

I’m still particularly interested in the Harvick vs. Busch battle. Two different teams and manufacturers, two drivers at different places in their careers and yet equally hungry for more wins and championships. Plus, it seems like their cars are pretty even for now.

Other than that, the summer is rapidly approaching with NASCAR still starving for one of its young drivers to step up and create a secondary storyline that generates some badly needed interest and enthusiasm.

25 Replies to “The Top Five: Breaking down the Talladega race”

  1. What do you mean by DVR proof ad? I’ve never had a sports program or tv show stop when fast fowarding through commercials

    1. The short commercials that pop up for 10 seconds or less without really going to a commercial. And to a lesser extent, the side by side commercials.

    2. Its the commercial thats part of the broiadcast, for example that duracell thing they do. Cant fast forward through it cause its so short.

    3. Constant name drops and screen shove ins that reduce action to a thumbnail.

      And the forever name dropping through the whole thing.

    4. An example is the 5-second Duracell ad on half the screen, during live action.

  2. What do you mean by dvr proof ad? I’ve dvr’d several tv shows and sports broadcast and never had an ad that stops me from fast forwarding through commercials.

    1. He means ads within the broadcast itself, not a commercial break, like the Duracel ad/promo, which (don’t have a dvr myself but assume) the DVR does not identify as an ad and therefore you can’t skip using the auto-skip feature, but need to manually FF

  3. In regards to the commercials: I do believe they were terrible. However, it’s important to note that NASCAR’s current TV deal (signed in 2013) is $820 million a year. Ratings have dropped pretty dramatically since then. I think FOX and NBC paid a little more than what the sport ended up being worth, and they’re trying to recoup some of that with more commercials. Especially with the race being on FOX as opposed to FS1. I expect them to only get worse over the next few years.

  4. #4 is killing the sport. The in-race coverage today was the worst I have seen in a Cup race in many years. The lack of enough post race today was embarrassing. At least I don’t have to watch FOX coverage of the All-star race weekend since I will at it live.

  5. “Logano’s former 364-day, 36-race winless streak will forever be the longest of his career.”

    First of all, it already isn’t (2009-2012). Second, if you just mean going forward from today, it’s pretty safe to say this won’t be true. Look at the greats that have had longer winless streaks between wins (not even counting starts after their final wins). Earnhardt Sr, Jeff Gordon, Bill Elliott, Tony Stewart, Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Terry Labonte, Matt Kenseth. Darrell Waltrip had about a 34-race winless streak between wins. Heck, Jimmie Johnson is approaching 36 races without a win

    “NASCAR still starving for one of its young drivers to step up and create a secondary storyline that generates some badly needed interest and enthusiasm.”

    Maybe they shouldn’t have gone all-in on that young guns gimmick with their marketing dollars. Certainly, nascar needs to cultivate fans of the next generation, so some emphasis on the young guns is wise. But to basically ignore all other drivers in their marketing push, when the Young Guns(TM) have won all of 1 race, total, well, what do you expect from the nascar brain trust

    “The relentless amount of commercials being shoved down viewers’ throats is among the most pressing, but is also sadly among the least likely to change.”

    This is solely Nascar’s fault. They should have built into the contract a maximum amount of commercials per green flag hours. Of course, the networks would have paid less for the rights. But in its short sightedness, nascar went for the quick megabuck deal, and cause the Nets have to pay for those tv rights with ads, it’s ruining the watchability of the product, irreparably damaging nascar’s ratings and popularity, and, oh, btw, ensuring the next tv deal will be for pennies on the dollar. another forward-thinking decision

    1. God blessed Joey when Gibbs let him go. Have heard from reliable sources that no one listened to him at Gibbs – not his crew chief (who was so experienced) or other drivers. Joey was also blessed, when Brad K (who, along with Dale Jr.) is a superior judge of talent, said to himself, “How stupid can these folks be?” and worked to bring him on board as a teammate.

  6. I have to agree with you on #4. It certainly seems like they show 4+ hours of commercials with a little racing thrown in. I am getting kind of tired of it and enjoy F1 and IndyCar a lot more than NASCAR. And I never ever thought I would say that.

  7. Those commercials were brutal today. Either there were more than normal or I just don’t pay close enough attention every other week, but it killed the broadcast. And those KFC commercials are annoying. I get that there has to be commercials, but as you pointed out, it is bad when they miss lead changes and other stuff. It was very frustrating to watch. Aside from that, I thought the action was ok. Maybe the cars need to be slowed down a little more or something. It seemed like a lot of people had handling problems and that kind of hurt the action.

  8. Jeff, luckily I DVR the race and start it late so I don’t have to watch the commercials… I thought the racing was really good today. My biggest surprise this year is Kyle Larsen…. the one I wish could do better is Bubba Wallace…

  9. I too DVR the race to skip all the commercials. That’s my choice. The lack of post race coverage is inexcusable.

  10. I saw so many ads for NHRA, that I didn’t even want to watch. Between that and the hella old KFC ad, I was actually starting to lose my mind a little at the end, I was getting truthfully angry.

    It’s a seriously awful version of deja vu.

    I was reminded why I DVR, fast forward on 3x until I see a caution, stop, hear what it’s about and then back to fast forwarding. Between the shoved in stage cautions, the endless commercials, I easily cut a 3-4 hour broadcast into 30 minutes of things *I* want to see.

    And no insipid smashup “interviews” or pit road updates, that is really just a long script for a commercial ending with “got fuel”.


    “And here’s your Credit One banking, get your Credit One credit card today, Pit Road Update presented by KFC, Jamie?”

    “Yeah, I’m going and going and going here at the Chevy stall of the 48 Lowes for Pros, where they must get a great deal on bondo, as the Sunoco large can, extra special ethanol green blend of fuel cut a hole in the Kobalt section, which was also cut away with a Kobalt saw. We’re right in front of the Toyota stall, where the normal M&Ms car of Kyle Busch, sponsored by Mars – today in a special Interstate Batteries scheme – has just needed 4 fresh Goodyear, More Driven tires, where Jim Bobs Steel Emporium lug nuts got on safely.”

    “Thanks Jamie, she really did keep going and going and going, just like Duracell Batteries, the ones most trusted by Monster Energy Cup teams to keep their equipment going! We’re about to go green, so let’s take a 12 minute commercial break in which you will hear the same 6 ads, over and over, sometimes twice in the same commercial break, presented just for you to Unleash the Beast!”

    All that to tell us Jimmie got gas and Kyle got tires, and we aren’t going to get racing.

  11. I have come to the conclusion that FOX is totally in delusion as to what race coverage should be. They should replace Darrell and Mike Joy immediately. They dumb down the sport to moronic levels. Grid walk is stupid, and they keep on trying to be comedians. When Ken Squier, Ned Jarrett, and men like that announced, you got facts, and nothing else. NASCAR has not made a credible commercial to promote themselves in many years. I get so damn tired of commercials that make fans look stupid. This coming from a fan of 37 years. Wake up !!!!

  12. One of the reasons the ‘Dega race was so painful is that usually we have you at the track telling us what’s going on. Between driver’s channels or possible cautions (debris or otherwise) or other information that we need to watch the race. If you didn’t tweet it then you retweeted someone with information that is good to know. When forced to rely on FOX, that’s part of the pain of being a Nascar fan.

  13. I’ve felt this way for a long time, but this past Sunday’s broadcast may have been the most unwatchable in FOX’s 17+ years. When the commercials make it difficult to figure out what is really going on, there is a major issue. Add in FOX’s group of rodeo clowns and the entire broadcast is just absolutely pathetic. Time for MAJOR changes at FOX, imho…..

  14. The fix for this is to plow up Talladega’s current configuration and install a 3/4’s mile short track. Base your coverage expenses not on ads, but use some other less intrusive means to get income, and start by putting the races on streaming services with competent, relevant commentators.

  15. If you want to see where Talladega was versus where it is now, just look up the last four laps of the 2006 Aaron’s 499 on YouTube. It’s got everything — rough asphalt (the last race before the repave), Larry Mac speaking in his best urgent voice (“He kicks Vickers to the HIGH side!”), Darrell trying to keep up (what’s new) — all while Mike Joy is working on his highlight reel (“Matt Kenseth’s gonna be madder than a hornet!”) My point is this: Yesterdays race was nothing exceptional in the history of Talladega. I’m glad that many fans showed up. That track has certainly seen worse days when it comes to ticket sales. I think the honest explanation is that the ride height rule threw everybody off and the whole field was too skittish to run three wide a dozen deep. I think Gluck is absolutely right about the FOX commercial situation — it’s amazing to me that in a sport literally driven by sponsors, we can’t come up with a more creative, less intrusive way to pay for broadcast television during live events. The very existence of “side-by-side” is proof that fullscreen, green-flag ads from the network are total money grabs. And while I’m on this flaming soapbox careening toward the cliff, it’s a crime against humanity that Larry Mac was ever taken off the primary FOX broadcast trio for Cup. Darrell Waltrip is an embarrassment to the medium of television. I respect his career on the track, but Jesus, man — have a little self-awareness and look around. Ride around in your tricked-out golf cart and take selfies with the fans. Stop interrupting Jeff Gordon every other sentence to quote “Stuck In The Middle With You” during every damn restrictor plate race. Sorry to upset the seven random grandmothers in Kentucky who would be sad if Darrell was canned, but it’s 2018, guys. Mike Joy is the voice of NASCAR. Jeff Gordon is a champion and a legend and (most importantly for TV) recently out of these current-generation cars, thus very knowledgeable. Fans need that insight. I’m tired of hearing good ol’ boy stories 17 times in a row from Darrell. Joy, Gordon and McReynolds — that’s your dream team, FOX. Get the picture. Once Dale Junior becomes a sensation over at NBC for the second half this season, FOX would be bigger clowns than the Waltrip Boys if they tried to bring back DW in 2019. Alright, I’m done. #freelarrymac

  16. Often watch the “old” races on YouTube. The announcers WERE NOT THE CENTER OF ATTENTION. They knew when to pipe up with a stat or two…and then shut their mouths and let the racing do the talking.

    As for one of the posters. I have heard over the years that Zippy with the Gibbs management blessing…basically treated him like garbage. Oh noooo, he isn’t Tony Stewart…and they kept everything to the liking of Tony, who no longer drove for Gibbs, but were loyalists to the ghost of Tony. Logano was a dare Gibbs saddle us with him! It worked out very well in the end now. Did it not? Gibbs has a huge revolving door in the XFINITY and CUP series. I do believe the only reason why Busch and Hamlin, the ONLY reason is their one sponsor commitment each has. Without those, buh bye. Does not matter who you are in GIBBS WORLD. Cash baby, cash.

Comments are closed.